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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Maui Day I

We're now in Hawaii, staying in Kihei, and had a very nice first day here. We flew from SF to Kona on Friday, and finished the flight with an interesting, if a bit exciting, trip from Kona to Maui on a Cessna commuter plane.

This gave us excellent looks at several islands, and one thing that's interesting is how different volcanic landscapes look from non-volcanic ones. The big Hawaiian Shield volcanoes are particularly interesting in that they're very flat triangles in profile, with very shallow sloping sides that seem to go up forever. Unless you're quite far away, you don't so much see a mountain as much as you see the horizon tilted into the sky, often ending in a bank of clouds at the summit. There are few hills or peaks other than the top of the mountain itself, as these mountains are very young and erosion hasn't yet done much with any of them.

Unless you count carving out deep canyons for streams and small rivers; in the wetter parts of Hawaii, there are plenty of these. Yesterday, we drove to Hana, on the eastern side of Maui. The road there, aptly named Highway 360, since you sometimes feel your car has turned at least that much where making turns, winds along the coast on the northern and eastern skirts of Haleakala. The road, which is truly beautiful although quite tricky and which has an average - and appropriate - speed limit of 20MPH and less in many places - through many microclimates from quite dry to tropical rainforest that gets 400 inches per year, where Hana is.

Hana itself is interesting, in a beautiful environment with rainforests, the mountain looming above like a green cloud, and the bluest sea you'll find anywhere. The beaches are wonderful with black sand, intensely green rainforest, and the deep blue sea right up to the surf. Hana has lots of history, and the odd mix of prosperity and casual approaches to building maintenance that you see in much of rural Hawaii. Since we drove there as a day trip, we didn't have much of a chance to meet locals, but it looks very welcoming and cheerful, without much in the way of tourist kitsch. Next time, we'll try to stay in town overnight since the drive on 360 can't be done in less than three hours, even if it's only about 60 miles from central Maui.

We also went to a big lava tube near Hana. This tube is very interesting if you're into lava tubes (and we like them), and was much bigger and longer than tubes we've visited in California and the Big Island. It has lots of "runnies" that make the walls and ceiling of parts of the tube look like melting chocolate. Also, it has good hand-rails and is well-signed; the proprietor clearly takes pride in his work and knows a thing or two about lava tube geology.

We attempted to drive around the southeast side of Maui, but the road is closed due to an earthquake in 2006, so we returned to Kihei by retracing back through Hana.

More tomorrow...

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